Tuesday, March 29, 2011

1994 Mount Pleasant Maurice O'Shea Shiraz (Hunter Valley)

All roads seemingly lead to the Hunter Valley for RedtoBrown at the moment. Hunter Valley tastings, samples, and tweet-ups have been a focus in the past couple of weeks, and as it so happens I’m heading up to the Hunter this weekend for a mate’s wedding. Staying on message I thought I’d talk a bit about the 1994 Mount Pleasant Maurice O’Shea Shiraz, which I had a few weeks back with Brown and our much better halves.

When a wine is 17 years old I’d generally err on the side of caution when considering whether to decant for a while before drinking. If you decant for too long with an aged wine you might in fact miss its best moments, before it starts to slowly decline. So this was given a quick decant before it found its way into our glasses. As it turned out, I shouldn’t have been so conservative, as this Hunter Shiraz has plenty of years in front of it, and I’m sure it would have been better on day two, had we not polished it off in the one evening.

The dominant aroma on the nose initially was some characteristic Hunter leather along with some chocolate oak. As it opened up over the next couple of hours however, notes of cherry, earth, and black olive came to the fore. A lovely aged Hunter bouquet. The palate was defined by a spine of quite prominent acidity from which everything else flowed. It’s medium-bodied, wonderfully food friendly, tastes of classic Hunter sour cherry and earth, and finishes with fine, drying tannin. It’s not incredibly complex, and I could quibble about oak being a tad too prominent here, but there’s an appeal and persistence to this wine that’s hard to resist. Cork permitting, it would not surprise me to see this still drinking well in another 10 years time. 4 Stars.




Sunday, March 27, 2011

Go Chard or Go Home - Hunter Valley Chardonnay Tasting

The Hunter Valley is synonymous with Semillon - Australia’s finest, most age worthy Semillon at that. It also happens to be the birthplace of modern Chardonnay in Australia, a lesser-known fact. To showcase what the Hunter Valley can do with this most noble of varieties, on 15 March in Sydney, the Hunter Valley Wine Industry Association organised a sizeable single blind tasting of 17 Hunter Valley Chardonnays.

The tasting provided all involved with a solid introduction/reaffirmation of what makes good quality Hunter Valley Chardonnay so appealing: a consistent number of  wines with flavours of largely yellow and white stone fruit, some leaning more to green melon, others fig, and less commonly some citrus flavours. The use of oak in most of the wines was evident, though was generally well considered and in balance with the fruit, leading to a creamy cashew nuttiness and subtle spice that did not overpower.

One obvious point of difference on the night was the 2009 Polin Polin Tudor Chardonnay. It had crisper acidity than the norm, more citrus flavours and a subtle almost Riesling-like minerality. Other wines in the line-up, including the 2009 Tyrrell’s Vat 47 was framed by nice acidity and finished surprisingly restrained given the primary fruit on show.

The 2009 Scarborough White Label (reviewed previously on this site) was of typically high standard and an example of sensitive use of quality oak to maximise the end result – typical Hunter Chardonnay fruit profile with the intelligent use of nice oak adding a spicy restrain and complexity to the wine. The 2009 De Iuliis Limited Release was another wine that stood out for its oak/barrel driven complexity with a nice spicy smokiness adding interest.

After tasting the 17 wines, it was clear that the Hunter Valley produces chardonnay in a broadly recognisable style (a riper style with nice stone fruit and sometimes fig flavours, creamy spicy oak and slight tropical fruit in the warmer vintages). However, the tasting also reinforced what we have found in the past – Hunter winemakers are successfully varying the regional chardonnay style, producing appealing ‘point of difference’ wines in the process.

Thanks must go to the Hunter Valley Wine Industry Association for organising the tasting (which in included a Shiraz vertical that will appear on RedtoBrown in upcoming weeks as well) – an enjoyable and educational event that effectively showcased what the Hunter Valley has to offer.


Tuesday, March 22, 2011

2007 & 2008 Rosby Cabernet Sauvignon - A Tale of Two Vintages (Mudgee)

I’ve previously written about the unique Rosby vineyard in Mudgee, and the interest and value it offers in producing single site wines for $18 a bottle ( The 2006 Cabernet Sauvignon is an especially impressive wine, from a good Mudgee vintage, and I’ve got a fair few put away in the cellar (

The 2007 and 2008 vintages, were however, pretty tough in Mudgee. 2007 was a particularly hot vintage, while 2008 was a vintage with plenty of rain and subsequent problems with vine disease. So I was interested to see what Gerry Rosby could manage to produce in these difficult vintages. As much as a single vineyard wines provide character and interest, they are also subject to the vagaries of vintage. The differences in vintage, if not too extreme and well managed in the vineyard, can be embraced and enjoyed. There is always the possibility, however, tough vintages will produce tough single-vineyard wines. Happily in the case of these two wines it is the former that is the case.

2007 Rosby Cabernet - Rosby Cabernets are generally a medium-bodied affair, and while this wine stays within that range, it is fuller bodied than other vintages. It has an inviting, rich nose of dark-fruits, coal, earth, and some lovely oak. On the palate the wine has a reasonable line and length, and nice tannins, but despite this decent structure it comes across as a wine that will drink at its best over the next couple of years. It tastes of dark fruits and earth, along with some nice licks of chocolate and liquorice. 3.5 Stars

2008 Rosby Cabernet – This wine initially sat in marked contrast with the 07, presenting itself more like a traditional claret, being on the lighter side of medium-bodied. On the nose it had site typical plum, an interesting black olive note, and tasteful oak. It was obvious that the oak treatment had been judicious given the lighter fruit profile from the vintage. On the palate the acidity is more prominent and it tastes of red fruits, sour cherry, and earth. There are some lovely, persistent tannins through the finish. It held up well over 3 days, and indeed fleshed out a bit. I’d suggest this will age nicely over the next 5-10 years. 3.5 + Stars

Two very good, but quite different wines, all the result of vintage variance. Site specific plum and earth flavours are evident in both, but there are also significant differences. The 2007 is for drinking now, while the 2008 is perhaps the more interesting wine and the one that will get better with age. I now look forward to the 2009, which happily was a very good Mudgee vintage.

Rated: 3.5 Stars/3.5 Stars+
RRP: $18/$18
ABV: 13.5%/13.5%


Saturday, March 19, 2011

2009 Scarborough White Label Chardonnay (Hunter Valley, Sample)

This 09 White Label sits right where I like to see Hunter Chardonnay. It doesn’t resile from its region or roots, being a generous Chardonnay with prominent oak in its youth, and yet there is enough restraint shown to mark it out as a class act.

Melon, grilled nuts and lovely French vanilla oak are prominent on the nose. On the palate it builds and unwinds nicely after about an hour in the decanter, at which point it delivers pure Chardonnay goodness. There’s a generosity of citrus and melon flavours, along with some lovely creaminess. This is supported by spicy oak, fine acidity and a long finish with an appealing citrus pith note.

The oak should integrate nicely over the next 3-5 years, at which point it will drink beautifully.


ABV: 14.0%
RRP: $30


Sunday, March 13, 2011

2007 Saint Cosme Cotes du Rhone (Rhone Valley)

Your enjoyment of this wine will largely depend on your tolerance for a bit of barnyard pong in a wine. For me it works nicely, but for others it might be a bit distracting. Either way its definitely a wine that needs a good decant.

Once it has opened up it actually has a lovely nose of blueberry, some meatiness, a nice floral note, and said barnyard pong. It drunk perfectly as a casual food wine over a Sunday night bowl of Capellini Bolognese. It’s well balanced between nice berry fruit and a savoury, drying impact. It’s not especially serious or structured, but provides plenty of enjoyment and a point of difference. It should drink well for a few more years.


RRP: $18
ABV: 14.0%


Wednesday, March 9, 2011

2005 Tarrawarra Reserve Chardonnay (Yarra Valley)

This is a superb Chardonnay, and right down my alley stylistically.

It’s a worked Chardonnay of generosity, and yet ultimately one of restraint. It has a classic nose of grilled nuts, melon, spice, and a lovely milkiness. With a bit of air and close to room temperature, it drinks beautifully. It has tremendous length. You can savour the texture and flavour long after you’ve swallowed. It tastes of melon and citrus, has a lovely spice and nuttiness, and is rounded off by a beautiful touch of creaminess. All of this is underpinned by a fine, yet unwavering acidity. Like many great wines it manages to demonstrate power and elegance all at once. Drink anytime from now through the next 5 years. 4.5 Stars.


RRP: $50
ABV: 13.5%


Sunday, March 6, 2011

Mourvedre Tasting: Hewitson Old Garden Vertical

The Oak Barrel in Sydney puts on some of the most engaging and interesting tastings in Sydney at present, and a Mourvedre tasting last week was no exception. The tasting included a vertical of Hewitson’s Old Garden Mourvedre from the Barossa Valley, as well as two French examples from Bandol, and two Spanish Monastrell. This seemed pretty well timed given my recent rant about the importance of our old vines, one example of which is the 1853 Old Garden vineyard from which the Hewitson Old Garden Mourvedre is sourced.

The more I drink Mourvedre (or Mataro or Monastrell depending on your language or preference), the more I want it to be a part of my cellar. The best examples are well structured, tannic wines that balance dark fruits with varying degrees of spice, a gamey meatiness, earth, and leather. It’s a style and flavour profile that really appeals to me.

The wines tasted on the night were -

Bandol, France

2001 Domaine Tempier Cuvee Cabassaou – $185 - One of the most famous wineries from Bandol in the South of France, and by reputation one of the world's great producers of Mourvedre. Happily the wine lived up to the reputation being my wine of the night, which was a reflection of its uniqueness, as much as its undoubted quality. In my notes I’ve got “liquefied roast wild boar”. It’s as gamey a wine as I’ve had, but in an entirely positive way. It’s a relatively medium-bodied and elegant example of Mourvedre and is beautifully structured. Lovely tannins are still prominent at 10 years of age, and it has the balance to age for a number of years. This would go brilliantly with some roast game meat. Loved it.

2004 Domaine du Gros Nore Red – $85 - Not quite as impressive as the Tempier but still very good and in fact only half the price. An interesting bouquet of dark fruits, polished leather, and an appealing note of orange peel. Plush fruit on the palate is balanced by leather flavours and grippy tannins. Very enjoyable.

Spanish Monastrell

2002 Primitivo Quiles Raspay Tinto Brut Alicante – $55 - Something had gone wrong with this wine as it came across like a poor example of a Banyul or some other savoury type of fortified.

2004 Bodega Enrique Mendoze Estrecho – $80 - Really enjoyed this. Savoury, complex bouquet of earth, tar, some lovely liquorice, and a touch of barnyard funk. There’s excellent length and grip on the palate with some beautiful varietal spice. Probably the best Monastrell I have tried.

Hewitson Old Garden Mourvedre Vertical

1998 – Dean Hewitson’s first attempt with this wine is looking great at 13 years of age. It has a lovely nose, with a nice hint of barnyard along with dark fruits, earth and a hint of game. The palate is balanced and supple with lovely fruit still evident, tasty spice, and a hint of that barnyard again. Could drink a lot of this, but unfortunately apparently not even Hewitson have stocks of this wine left.

2002 – $70 - There is a lovely intensity of fruit and savoury flavours here. It’s well structured with good length, and is still nice and tannic at 9 years of age. Plenty of time in front of it.

2003 – $60 - The least impressive of the Old Garden’s on the night, and a reflection of a tough vintage as such. Still a good wine, and typical of the vineyard, but suffered when compared to its more impressive brethren.

2004 – $60 - There is an interesting and appealing floral note on the nose, along with dark fruits and just a hint of oak that has all but been subsumed by the wine. The palate is superb, showing balance and length in its beautiful fruit, spice, and liquorice. Plenty of years in front of it.

2005 – $65 - My favourite Old Garden on the night, and my 2nd favourite overall after the Tempier. It had an expressive nose, with a lovely balance between oak and fruit on the one hand and savoury aromas of earth and leather on the other. There’s a great intensity and drive on the palate that leads on to the long, long finish. Beautifully structured and should do another 10 years in a canter.

2006 – $68 - This looked a touch subdued on the night but is of undoubted quality. Relatively medium-bodied, there’s an elegance and balance to this wine that is impressive. Once again there is lovely spice and a nice touch of meatiness. This needs to be put in a cool cellar for a number of years.

2008 – $80 - The flashiest of all the wines on the night with some sexytime caramel oak on the nose. Not surprisingly it had plenty of admirers at the tasting. Lush, primary fruit and oak dominate the palate at this stage, along with the trademark spice. Just a hint of the savoury flavours that will come with age. Should be good with time and a very good result considering how tough the vintage was in the Barossa.

One thing that I have read in plenty of reviews about the Hewitson Old Garden Mourvedre, is that obvious oak is evident in its youth. What is apparent from doing a vertical like this is that while the oak is indeed flashy when young, it does integrates with time, such that by the time you get to 8-10 years of age there is no discernable oak, and that oak input has instead become an integrated part of the complex bouquet and palate. The vertical was also an excellent exposition of the effects of vintage on a single vineyard wine. While there is a commonality with all the Old Gardens, each wine has it own distinct personality courtesy of each specific growing season.

I think the Hewitson Old Garden Mourvedre has a stature and significance such that it doesn't need to be compared to other examples of this varietal, and yet we can't help but do this type of comparison, as much because it as an enjoyable exercise during which one learns a lot. So in comparing the Hewitson Old Garden with the Spanish and French examples, the best of the Old Gardens compare very well. Stylistically, the Old Garden has much in common with wines like the Gros Nore and Estrecho, in being structured, tannic Mourvedres that have a nice balance between fruit and savoury flavours. Age is kind to these top examples of the variety, regardless of the country of origin, with complex spice, game, earth, and leather coming to fore, and providing a real sense of enjoyment and difference. The outlier in one sense was the Domaine Tempier, which pushed the boundaries of game meatiness in a wine, but did so beautifully, and as such was the standout on the night.

With all the social media driven wine campaigns about at the moment, I wonder if there is room for a “Mourvedre May” or “Mataro May”? With the onset of colder weather, when meals like roast venison come into their own, it might be just the trick . . .


Wednesday, March 2, 2011

2007 Mount Pleasant Rosehill Shiraz (Hunter Valley)

Yet another wine that demonstrates the importance of giving a wine plenty of air and time before passing judgement. Initially I was a tad disappointed with this wine, if only because I had high expectations from this label from as good a vintage as 07 in the Hunter. By the end of the second day however, it had come together very nicely and all concerns had been dispelled.

Rosehill is to my mind a floral, feminine expression of Hunter Shiraz and the 07 is very much of this ilk. An inviting nose of lifted floral aromas, warm earth, and cherry, leads on to a medium-bodied palate with lovely texture and drying tannin. Excellent line and length of cherry fruit with good grip. Tasty.

If you would like to try a low-ish alcohol, medium-bodied, aged, Hunter Shiraz, you could do far worse than to put this wine in the cellar for 5-10 years. Lovely wine.


RRP: $35
ABV: 13.5%

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